What It Takes to Tackle Traffic

The Austin Chronicle recently ran an article that took a good, hard look at what it will take to change Austin’s traffic woes. There’s no one silver bullet to improving mobility in Austin, but there are some behavior changes we can all make that will help. Here are some of key points from the article about how each of us has the power to make those changes happen:

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 1.17.13 PMWhile entities like Capital Metro and the Texas Department of Transportation all have important roles to play in our region’s transportation, the most cost-effective and immediate changes can start right now, with commuters making choices like carpooling or trying transit out, even if it’s only one or two days a week. Employers can help too by implementing policies that allow workers to telecommute or stagger work hours. That’s called travel demand management, or TDM.

We can’t build our way out of congestion. “TDM is a way out of the congestion nightmare predicted last year by the Texas A&M Trans­portation Institute (TTI), a research division of Texas A&M University, which tested possible long-term congestion fixes for I-35. Its Mobility Investment Priorities project modeled eight scenarios, including a baseline that added no capacity to I-35 but built all the roads and transit projects included in the existing 2035 Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization plan. If only the baseline projects are built, I-35 will be completely swamped by 2035, and travel across Austin during rush hour will take more than three hours, with heavy traffic continuing as late as 10pm some places.”

There’s a lot of new technology that’s making it easier to rideshare, carpool, or find the best options to get from point A to point B. Carma has partnered with the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority to offer toll discounts on the Manor Expressway and 183A for carpoolers. Commute Solutions offers a ride-matching service. And RideScout gives commuters a quick overview of their transportation options, from walking to bikeshare or bus.

Although it’s a longer-term solution, land use design and parking policies can also help reduce traffic by allowing people to live, work and play without relying on cars.

Changing travel habits can be hard, but starting small can help. Commuters don’t have to save the world through extreme behavior changes. It may be the free time to read on the bus, the savings from not driving every day, or the weight loss from biking once a week that motivate people to try out options.

Employers play an important role, too. Says Thomas Butler, the Downtown Austin Alliance‘s streetscapes and transportation director: “It’s not just giving them transportation options, it’s giving them support services to enable them to use those options. It’s not just saying, ‘You can bike to work,’ it’s putting in place the bike infrastructure that makes cycling safe; it’s putting in showers at the end of their trips; it’s putting in bike lockers so people can lock up their bikes and feel they’re safe.” And it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition, says Movability Austin’s Executive Director Glenn Gadbois: “We really want people to do it one day a week, do it two days a week. It’s not black or white. You don’t just have to be a bicyclist, you don’t just have to be a bus rider.”


image via Creative Commons


One Response to What It Takes to Tackle Traffic

  1. Dave Sullivan says:

    Just reading this while listening to KUT news, and the reporters thought it newsworthy enough to mention that their tweets are talking so much about traffic around the Capitol that a reporter had decided to walk there from UT instead of driving!!!! OMG! Imagine having to walk from 24th street to 12th street!!! Another observation: in the above story there is the quote “If only the baseline projects are built, I-35 will be completely swamped by 2035, and travel across Austin during rush hour will take more than three hours…” The word “travel” should be “drive.” In 2035, God-willing, I will be able to bike across town or take a train across town during rush hour in a fraction of the stated 3 hours.